China joins forces with South Africa and Mozambique against wildlife crime
The events in Johannesburg and Maputo were supported by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA), China Customs, National Forestry Police, the Chinese embassies in South Africa and Mozambique and the China International Contractors Association (CICA). The SFA is China’s Management Authority (MA) for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Around 200,000 Chinese nationals live in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa and an important economic and financial centre, while Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is the a key trading port.
Against a backdrop of rising economic and trade exchange between Africa and China, Chinese citizens have been implicated in a number of cases of poaching and smuggling of African ivory, rhino horn and other endangered wildlife products. Such cases undermine China’s international reputation and wildlife conservation efforts in Africa.
Seventy Chinese nationals from State-owned enterprises, private businesses and local residences in Mozambique and another seventy in South Africa attended the workshops, where they learned about wildlife protection and management laws in China, CITES regulations and recent smuggling cases, in order to discourage local Chinese nationals from buying and carrying ivory and other endangered wildlife products to China from Africa.
Su Jian, the Chinese ambassador to Mozambique, pointed out that around 70% of reported cases involving Chinese nationals related to illegal timber and wildlife smuggling, which damaged the reputation of Chinese nationals and their country.
He urged local Chinese enterprises to improve their oversight, since if any Chinese staff working for them were found to be engaged in smuggling, the employer could be held partly responsible.
TRAFFIC spoke about trends in African Elephant and rhino poaching and the associated illegal ivory and rhino horn trades. It noted that those convicted of wildlife crime faced harsh penalties in many African countries.
Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia have all recently strengthened their penalties. In March this year, two Chinese nationals convicted of illegally possessing 706 pieces of ivory were each sentenced to 30 years in prison by a district court in Tanzania. In 2014, Mozambique increased its maximum penalties to US$90,000 or up to 12 years in jail.
China has taken action too: earlier this year, the SFA announced the extension of bans on ivory imports and a new one on the import of pre-CITES ivory. The three bans will last to the end of 2019. Last September China and the USA announced a joint commitment to tackle illegal international ivory trade.
Li Nan, a project manager with WWF, spoke about China’s efforts to support wildlife conservation in Africa under the framework of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and China’s “One Belt One Road” strategy. Zhang Xiang, Deputy Secretary General of the CICA, emphasized that Chinese corporates should take their social and environment responsibility in Africa seriously and introduced a document on Guidance for Chinese enterprise business practices in Africa.
Zhang Shanning, the Enforcement Division Chief of China’s CITES MA, said that wildlife conservation was a cause for all mankind, shared by the international community, and that China stood ready to combat illegal wildlife trade and its overseas citizens should take their responsibility to comply with CITES and relevant national legislations seriously.
“We are coming from afar to Africa to deliver a simple but firm message to Chinese people here: Do not engage in illegal wildlife trade,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China office. “If the crime and the demand that fuels it does not end, then attempts to save Africa’s wildlife will be in vain.”
Another highlight of the workshops is the fact that the Mozambique Branch of China Road and Bridge Corporation and South Africa Branch of Sinohydro Group Ltd. made pledges on “Refusing illegal wildlife trade”, representing other Chinese enterprises at the two workshops.
This was the fourth workshop of its kind jointly conducted by TRAFFIC and the SFA. The first was held in Kenya in 2014 and the second in Ethiopia last year.
The latest workshops were generously supported by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).